Organizational excellence – Importance of criticism

May 2, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Posted in Blogroll, Organizational Excellence | Leave a comment

Last month, we explored importance of appreciation in the context of organizational excellence. Criticism is the other side of the coin, which I would like to explore today.

It is human nature to want appreciation and feel good when we receive it from others. It is also human nature to feel bad when somebody criticizes us and as a result we are reluctant to criticize others. But is that in our and others’ best interest? Criticism provides a very powerful feedback mechanism to let us know what we are missing. Only when we become aware of it can we do something to fill what is missing. By feeling bad about it and getting on the defensive, we miss a great opportunity to become a more complete person.

When making this change, it is always safer to start with taking criticism from others rather than start criticizing others. When we look at criticism as an opportunity to grow rather than something to be avoided, it completely changes our response to it. I have been trying to do the same and it really helps. The negative resistance gets replaced by a positive enthusiasm.

What is true for individuals is also true for teams, departments and the organizations. When service departments are criticized by the employees, we see resistance and defensive behavior. When teams are appreciated by the clients they feel happy and want to share it as an achievement with others. However, when we are criticized by the same clients, we are start finding excuses. The organizations seek regular satisfaction feedback from their customers and there is pressure to keep improving the index. But only a few really go out of the way to encourage an honest feedback and use it constructively for further improvements. We often hear the phrase “constructive criticism”, but I feel there is nothing like constructive or destructive from the giver’s point of view; it is how the receiver takes it. All we need is an honest feedback and it is for us to take it constructively or destructively.

Apart from the human feedback we receive, various systems we interact with keep giving us valuable feedback in terms of what did not go well. If only we take it as a honest criticism and use it constructively. All of us including me have a big gap between how we currently take criticism and how we could handle it differently as suggested above. It may make a huge difference to our performance and happiness if we practice this.

Would it therefore make sense to say that it is important for an organization to cultivate a culture of “honest feedback taken constructively”? I would appreciate any thoughts / experiences from you that either support or challenge what is said above.

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